Let me tell you a story. Like all good stories from your childhood it begins with once upon a time.
Once upon a time there was a football game. It was a clash of AFC teams, one of which was the New York Jets. The team was coached by a young unproven head coach who had risen up through the ranks as a defensive coordinator. Many thought he was one of the top defensive minds in the NFL, but as a head coach he still had much to prove.
The team that day was led by a veteran quarterback who had once led the NFL in interceptions. This quarterback had double digit interceptions every year and was something of a gunslinger. He struggled to get his completion percentage past 60%, and he had a career in which his passer rating hovered around league average. Although the quarterback was not yet at an age where the team necessarily needed to replace him, there was beginning to be some thought that he was not the future. In fact, although nobody knew it at the time, this quarterback would be finished as the starting quarterback for the team in less than a year. He would be replaced by a lightly regarded Big Ten quarterback drafted that year who had not had an all that impressive college career.
The team was coming off two straight impressive wins against two opponents that would make the playoffs that year. It was in the middle of an absolutely sadistic schedule to start the season in which six of the first eight opponents made the playoffs that year and the other two games came against a bitter division rival that ended up barely missing the playoffs at 9-7. The team had put together a string of solid defensive performances. It was doing a good job of protecting the football and was in every game. In the previous game the team had zero turnovers, and with two straight wins over strong opponents, things seemed to be looking up.
Then came a game when, out of the blue, the team just didn't show up. They turned the ball over six times that day. The quarterback was sacked seven times in one of the worst days of his career. The team was victimized by a pick six. It got down by double digits early, trailed by 14 points by halftime, and never got any closer the rest of the way. The quarterback played so poorly he was pulled late in the game. It was an embarrassment, an absolute disaster, difficult to watch. The team fell to 2-5 on the loss and people were beginning to question whether the young head coach had what it took. People began to call for the quarterback to be replaced. Something, anything had to be done. Somebody had to be held accountable.
As things turned out the head coach eventually proved he had an inkling of how to coach in the NFL. The quarterback was not replaced, at least not that year. The season did not turn around. The team went on to post a record of 5-11. There was no happy ending, at least not that year.
The year? 2000. The team? The New England Patriots. The lightly regarded rookie quarterback? Tom Brady. Within a year the coach, the quarterback and the team were Super Bowl champions and beginning a journey which would propel them to one of the greatest sustained runs of excellence in NFL history.
The moral of the story? I'm not sure there is one. This Jets team is not that Pats team. Todd Bowles is not Bill Belichick. Christian Hackenberg is not Tom Brady. Nothing in the story should be taken to suggest the Jets are on the verge of a new NFL dynasty. Perhaps the only real take away is this. It's one really bad game. These things happen. Maybe it portends terrible things to come, yet another lost decade for a snakebit team. Maybe it represents hitting rock bottom, only to begin to build something great. Maybe it means nothing at all, a random blip of a terrible four quarters. Such things happen even to good coaches and good teams. The moral of the story? Maybe it's just one game. One really bad game. Nothing more, nothing less. Tomorrow is another day. Who knows what wonders it may bring?